New Catholic School to open in Fort Worth

By Frank Jackson

A new Catholic preparatory high school is set to replace Our Mother of Mercy Catholic School, located on 1007 East Terrell Avenue, in 2018.
The new school will be named Cristo Rey Fort Worth High School at Our Mother of Mercy.

Cristo Rey, a Chicago-based network, has 30 schools across the country, including Cristo Rey Dallas which opened in August with 122 first-year students, said Gunnar Rawlings, Cristo Rey Dallas Corporate Work Study Program Director.
The Cristo Rey Network was established in 2001 by Father John P. Foley to provide low-income high school students in the inner-city a path to college through education. Cristo Rey schools, according to their website, focus on providing economic opportunity for communities, generating about $100 million into the economy.
The program advocates for quality education as a pathway to “economic self-sufficiency.”
The program is a work-study that allows students to work a part-time job while attending school. A team of four students covers one full-time job without missing class, working 9 a.m.- 5 p.m.
“These kids aren’t working basic jobs,” said Pat Svacina, Communication Director of the Catholic Diocese of Fort Worth. “They work at legitimate companies.”
Students work at large companies such as AT&T, law firms like Locke Lord and news organizations such as the Dallas Morning News, said Rawlings.

Cristo Rey Network targets communities with family incomes under $35,000 and high unemployment rates, said Svacina. The money students earn goes toward their tuition at the school. Tuition costs about $13,250 per year and the work study program can pay for more than half that sum.
To prepare for these jobs, all 30 schools in the Cristo Rey network put their students through summer training where they learn how to conduct themselves in the corporate world, with lessons on professional etiquette and computer skills, said Rawlings.
Cristo Rey schools provide exposure to white collar corporate environments for low-income kids they otherwise wouldn’t see and the program also educates students’ families about the importance of a college education, said Rawlings.
Even in Cristo Rey Dallas’s infancy in Texas, Rawlings said he sees its power.
“It’s the students that are doing it,” said Rawlings. “They have to want it.”